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Why Michigan Isn't "Do Or Die" for Romney

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After John McCain's 5-point victory over Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, pundits and the broadcast media immediately characterized Michigan as a "do or die" state for Romney. A Romney loss to McCain (at the time the predicted winner of Michigan), it was argued, would have three negative effects.

First, McCain would be the first candidate in the GOP race to win back-to-back contests, giving him enough momentum to break away from the tightly packed Republican field. McCain has already done this (for the moment) nationally: a new CBS News / New York Times national poll gives McCain a 33 to 18 percent lead over Mike Huckabee, followed by Rudy Giuliani at 10 percent, Romney and Thompson at 8 percent, and Ron Paul at 5 percent. This 15-point margin is the largest lead by any GOP candidate since Giuliani held a 16-point lead in a Fox News poll in mid-November two months ago.

Secondly, a Michigan loss by Romney would be a big disappointment considering it is the state of his childhood, and the state in which his father served as Governor in the 1960s. New Hampshire was characterized as another Romney 'home state' by the media because of its proximity to Massachusetts as a means to explain his strong polling numbers in the Granite State throughout the year (an explanation, by the way, not commonly invoked to account for Barack Obama's strong performance in Iowa—a neighbor to his home state of Illinois). But Michigan is a true 'home state' for Romney, and a poor performance—though not necessarily a second place performance—would be a blow to his campaign.

Thirdly, it is believed Romney needs to win somewhere (and, for the media, Romney's overwhelming Wyoming Caucus victory does not count). The media believes a string of second-place finishes by Romney in high-profile contests will signal to Republicans nationwide that he can't win, and therefore his support will drop and he'll need to drop out.

There are several reasons, however, why Michigan will not spell the end of the Romney campaign. First, the media vastly overestimated the sustainable bounce McCain would get in Michigan from the New Hampshire win (though he did get one nationally). Romney leads in 4 of the 7 current statewide polls there, including Mitchell Research's tracking poll, which finds the state trending to Romney (6 points down to McCain three days ago, Romney is now up by 2 points). Romney is poised to win his home state, but, for the sake of argument, let's suppose he comes in a close second.

A close second-place finish would then mean what exactly? For one thing, it would mean Romney lost to a candidate in two consecutive contests where McCain scored big victories in 2000 (NH and MI).

And why would this (third) 'silver medal' spell the death of the Romney campaign more than, say, that of Huckabee, Giuliani, or Thompson? If McCain wins Michigan it is likely he will perform very strong in South Carolina—also considered "must-win" states by the media for the Huckabee and Thompson campaigns. McCain already leads the GOP field in the last two surveys in South Carolina—by 3 points in the latest Rasmussen poll and by 7 points in the latest Fox News Poll.

But if that media prediction is true, and either Huckabee or Thompson is knocked out of the race after South Carolina, will their votes necessarily go to McCain? The truth is, it is not known what will happen to the Republican field as other candidates falter, and Romney has the money to stick around to find out. Romney has already shown he can turn in strong performances in the West, the Midwest, and the Northeast. If he gives strong showings in South Carolina (where he is polling in third at 16 percent) and Florida (where he is polling just one or two points off the lead, within the margin of error), there is every reason to believe Romney will stay in the race as it shows he can turn out voters in all four parts of the country.

Additionally, Super Tuesday (February 5th) offers Romney some Western states in which he should perform quite well (Utah and Montana and perhaps Alaska and North Dakota). If Huckabee or Thompson remains in the race, one of them will probably deny McCain and Giuliani victories in southern states such as Tennessee (Thompson's home state), Arkansas (Huckabee's home state), Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and perhaps even Missouri). If McCain and Giuliani split several of the bigger Super Tuesday states (New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois), then there will be no decisive winner on Super Tuesday, permitting Romney to continue his campaign even past that date.

Even though Romney, who was considered to be a longshot during most of 2007, has outperformed what most pundits would have predicted a year ago, the media (and, most probably, the candidates) seem to resent the amount of money Romney is spending on the campaign relative to the other GOP hopefuls. This may be what is driving the energy by the media to set up artificial 'do or die' deadlines for Romney to exit the race.

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Remains of the Data

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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